Peter Laufer (author); CALEXICO; University of Arizona Press (Nonfiction: Social Sciences) $19.95 ISBN: 9780816529513
Byline: Kai White
Life in Calexico, California, population just under 50,000, is circumscribed by border town issues, like the severely restricted access to its sister-city Mexicali, Mexico, population 700,000. Waits of up to ninety minutes at the border fence are common. Calexico also faces severe air and water pollution. Lax regulations in Mexico allow raw sewage to pollute the New River and make the air quality one of the worst in California. Illegal immigrant raids, vehicular pursuits, and a rapidly changing ethnic demographic also characterize life in Calexico. This complex mix of border town issues makes Calexico the perfect subject for University of Oregon journalism professor Peter Laufer's follow up to his Mexican-American borderlands study, Wetback Nation, which won honorable mention for the 2005 Gustavas Myers Book Awards.
In this interview-driven study of Calexico's residents, Laufer succeeds in transcending the faceless media rhetoric of America's national immigration debate. Through the personal stories of people who "live, work, and transit the California-Mexico border," Laufer offers snippets of support for his claim that "the border has become a new type of geopolitical fraud." According to Laufer, this malady/circumstance manifests in the "criminalization of Mexican and other migrants, the bloating of the mismanaged Immigration and Customs Enforcement sector of the Homeland Security Department, the deterioration of living standards along the frontier, and the enrichment of American employers."